Returning to the parlour downstairs, he refilled his pockets with the gold of which he had lightened himself for his carpentry, knotted another twenty sovereigns tightly in his handkerchief, picked up the lighter of his two spades—for some months he had eschewed the heavier—and took his way through the streets, up the cliff-track by the warren, and so past the coastguard watch-house.
The sun had dropped behind the hill, leaving the West one haze of gold: but southward and seaward this gold grew fainter and fainter, paling into an afterglow of the most delicate blue-amber. In the scarce-canny light, as he rounded the corner of the cliff, he perceived two small figures standing above the hollow which ran down funnel-wise containing his patch, and recognised them.
“Drat them children!” he muttered; but kept on his way, and, drawing near, demanded to know what business brought them so far from home at such an hour.
“I might ask you the same question,” retorted ’Beida. “Funny time,— isn’t it?—to start diggin’ potatoes? An’ before now I’ve always notice you use a visgy for the job. Yet you can’t be plantin—not at this season—”
“I find the light spade handier to carry,” explained Nicky-Nan in some haste. “But you haven’t answered my question.”
“Well, if you must know, I’m kissin’ goodnight to ’Bert here. They’ve started him upon coast-watchin’, and he’s given this beat till ten-thirty, from the watch-house half-way to the Cove. I shouldn’ wonder if he broke his neck.”
“No fear,” put in ’Bert, proudly exhibiting and flashing a cheap electric torch. “They gave me this at St Martin’s—and in less than an hour the moon’ll be up.”
“But the paper says there be so many spies about—eh, Mr Nanjivell?”
“Damme,” groaned Nicky-Nan, “I should think there were! Well, if there’s military work afoot, at this rate, I’d better clear. —Unless ‘Bert would like me to stay here an’ chat with ’en for company.”
“We ben’t allowed to talk—not when on duty,” declared young ’Bert stoutly.
“Then kiss your brother, Missy, an’ we’ll trundle-ways home.”
“I hope, Mary-Martha,” said Miss Oliver, pausing half-way up the hill and panting, “that, whatever happens, you will take a proper stand.”
“You are short of breath. You should take more exercise.” Mrs Polsue eyed her severely. “When an unmarried woman gets to your time of life, she’s apt to think that everything can be got over with Fruit Salts and an occasional dose of Somebody’s Emulsion. Whereas it can’t. I take a mile walk up the valley and back every day of my life.”
“I don’t believe you could perspire if you tried, Mary-Martha.”
“Well, and you needn’t make a merit of it, . . . and if you ask me,” pursued Mrs Polsue, “one half of your palpitation is put on. You’re nervous what show you’ll make in the drawing-room, and that’s why you’re dilly-dallyin’ with your questions and stoppages.”